Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

The union representing Alberta health-care staff who walked off the job Monday to protest recent cuts says its members will return to work after the province’s labour relations board ruled they acted illegally.

In a decision issued late Monday, the board ruled the workers’ refusal to work amounted to an illegal strike under the province’s Labour Relations Code, and they must return to work according to their scheduled shifts.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents the workers, said it would notify its members of their obligation to obey the labour board’s directive.

“AUPE members won support from across Alberta for their heroic stand, and proved once and for all that health-care staff is more than doctors and nurses,” said the union’s statement late Monday night noting members will return to work Tuesday.

The AUPE represents about 58,000 health-care workers, although it wasn’t clear how many walked off the job. There were reports of picketing outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital and University of Alberta in Edmonton, Foothills Hospital and the South Health Campus in Calgary, as well as at many other facilities across the province.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision.

“Going forward we expect that all unions respect the bargaining process and stop putting Albertans’ safety at risk. We will not tolerate illegal strike activity,” Toews said.

Alberta Health Services, which delivers health-care in the province, said in a statement that it also expected staff members to return to work as scheduled.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the United Conservative government would be cutting up to 11,000 health jobs to save money during the pandemic, but he said nurses and front-line clinical staff would not be affected.

Some of the cuts are to come from further contracting out of laundry and lab services.

Guy Smith, president of the union, said in a release earlier Monday that members were trying to defend jobs and protect the public health-care system.

“Anger has been building among members for months,” said Smith. “The recent announcement by Health Minister Tyler Shandro of 11,000 jobs being cut in the middle of a global deadly pandemic was the last straw for them.”

AHS said it enacted contingency plans due to the walkouts to redeploy non-union staff, including managers, to cover for missing staff.

An AHS spokesman later said 157 non-emergency surgeries — the majority in Edmonton — were postponed Monday. They were in addition to elective surgeries postponed in Edmonton late last week due to COVID-19.

Toews said earlier that the government’s primary concern was ensuring the health and well-being of patients.

Shandro’s office had declined to comment on the walkouts.

The province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she didn’t know how the walkouts would affect the health-care system, since there are already staffing shortages due to COVID-19 and the respiratory virus season.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said earlier in a statement that her caucus believes patient safety must always be the top priority, but added the government’s proposal to privatize the work of 11,000 workers in the middle of a pandemic will result in poorer care for Albertans.

“This reckless plan must stop,’” she said.

— With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

HealthcareLabour

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World. (Photo Submitted)
Two Lacombe residents receive award from Governor General for charity work

Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt co-founded A Better World, a charity which started in Lacombe in 1990

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

A locally-produced video project aims to preserve Canada’s railway history

‘Railways have been an integral part of Canadian history since 1836’

Most Read